How to Handle Women’s Emotions (And Men’s)
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Women’s feelings can cause a lot of disturbance in our relationships. Men’s feelings do too, but the prominence of women’s feelings is something I want to start with, because it’s men’s inability to respond in a way that’s helpful that often leads to unnecessary issues in their relationship. The answer is quite simple as to what you can do to provide for your wife in a way that’s really satisfying to both of you.
What Men do Wrong
Yes, we as men do try to fix their problems. We want to solve them. We want to tell them how to do it better or tell them they’re being overly pessimistic or concerned. All these things actually make it worse, makes their feelings last longer and thus make it harder on ourselves.
How Feelings Work
If you give a feeling space to just move through, it will be gone in a very short amount of time. Even large amounts of anger, fear or sadness; if we just allow them to come through us, will move really rapidly and we will be on to the next feeling. The problem is that very few of us know how to be with our feelings and most of us were taught to just hold our feelings inside.
You know what it’s like. You feel sad or insecure and someone comes along and says, “Aw you shouldn’t feel so bad. It’s okay. Don’t worry about it. Cheer up.” It just makes you feel worse.
When that person gets down on your level, puts their hand on your shoulder and says, “Hey I’m here. What’s going on?” Then you get a chance to talk about your feelings and get them out and express them. You get to move through the feeling process and fairly quickly you are back to noticing the blue skies and that life is okay.
What do Actually Do
So just sit there and breath and notice your aversion to being in touch with their bad feeling. Look at them in the eye. They don’t have to be looking at you, but by looking at them in the eye, you’re showing that you are there and care. Even if on the inside you’re like, “Wow, this is really uncomfortable. I really want to get out of here.” Just keep your mouth shut, look them in the eye, breath, and be there for them. It might be helpful to occasionally say something like, “Wow, that really sucks,” or “Wow, I can’t believe that happened,” or “You’re right,” or “That’s really scary.” Just little words of sincere validation will allow them to feel your support.
That support allows them to feel like it is okay to have their feelings. If it is okay for them to have their feeling, they will feel it fully and it will move through quickly and they will get it out. They will come to a place of relief and also a place of feeling more connected with you.
When they can’t Talk about It
Sometimes your partner will just want you to sit there with them instead of talking it out. That can be really hard, particularly for us men to be with an intense feeling and not know what is going on. Just breath in that discomfort, put our hand on their back or hold them, breath into their intensity and show them that you are there for them. For women to feel loved and okay in a moment where their obviously overwhelmed by their feelings can make a huge difference.
The reality is that science has shown that we men actually feel feelings more intensely than women. Our physical reaction to feelings is more intense. What we do with those feelings is obviously very different. We do have more inclinations to hold them in and repress them for a variety of reasons.
A lot of women actually have difficulty with men’s feelings, particularly our feelings of insecurity. Especially if our feelings are around not being manly enough or sexually good enough or making enough money. These are really uncomfortable feelings for us to both feel and often really uncomfortable feelings for us to talk to our partners about. A lot of women don’t want to hear about how their man, who they rely on emotionally, actually feels like a lost, little boy sometimes. Women’s difficulty being present to these intense feelings can be quite hurtful as many men are very timid about showing such vulnerable feelings and too quickly learn to return to holding their feelings inside.
If this happens for you, just like I described previously, be there with your man. Look him in the eye and breath into your own discomfort. Feel your own fear of insecurity that makes it hard for you to be with his insecurity. See if you can extend your love around him. Be in that moment with his intensity.
Men have a lot of fear about showing their feelings and it is often said that they’re not good at feeling feelings or expressing them. As a Marriage & Family Therapist, I see couples all the time come in where the woman says, “Oh, he doesn’t know about his feelings and he’s emotionally dead.” But all it takes on my part is to get the guy to feel safe about expressing his feelings and he typically starts talking in no time. We all need to feel safe to show our vulnerability. We, as men need the security to know it is okay to talk about how scared, insecure, sad and lost we can feel.
A lot of times a women’s response to our initial expression can be tepid. Just like men’s response is often tepid to women’s feelings. Because we have that much less experience in doing it, it doesn’t take much message to us to just go, “Oh, I got it. I’ll just keep it inside. Never mind. I’ll deal with it somewhere else.”
Learning how to be there for your partner’s feelings, whether you are the man or the woman, really makes a difference in terms of having a healthy, thriving relationship. Come to understand what your aversion is, how you respond poorly by fixing or telling jokes, moving away or ignoring. And instead consciously choose those moments to go and be present physically, verbally and with your eyes. With practice you will become a master of that situation rather than just reflexively reacting.
This allows you to be far more empowered in your relationship and really give your partner what they need. This leads to a situation where you both can handle the complexities of parenting and life a lot better. Having a real partner where everybody’s being honest about their emotional world is how real intimacy is created..
True connection comes through being honest about all the craziness that can happen in our heads and hearts. If you make this a goal with your partner, your are sure to have a far more successful and thriving relationship.
Thanks for joining me. Please join the conversation below and I’ll see you next week for another episode of Full Frontal Fatherhood.
Julian Redwood, MFT